T20 BLAST PREVIEW: Last eight the minimum target as Steelbacks start campaign
Steelbacks head coach David Ripley has set his team the minimum target of booking a place in the Vitality T20 Blast quarter-finals.
Northants start their 2021 campaign when they entertain Worecstershire Rapids in the North Group on Friday night at the County Ground (7pm start).
Two-times winners of the competition, the Steelbacks haven't reached Finals Day since their most recent title success in 2016.
And although Ripley would dearly love to take the team back to Edgbaston once more, he knows the first target ahead of the 14-match group campaign is to ensure the Steelbacks are in the knockout mix.
"Our target, as it has always been, is to get to the quarter-finals and give yourself a chance in a one-off game," said the head coach, who was in charge of those two title wins.
"Then if we get to finals day we have some experience of what that is like."
The Steelbacks did reach the last eight last season, winning five of their 10 group games, including a miraculous win over Birmingham Bears on the final day, but were then hammered in the quarter-finals at Gloucestershire.
"Last year was a strange competition because we started so well, and we came out of the blocks quickly," said Ripley.
"We then had our Covid issue (four players had to self-isolate and missed matches) that stopped us doing the same in the second half of group stage, and we had to rely on that get out of jail card at Edgbaston to get through.
"We then didn't turn up in the quarter-finals, we saved a really poor performance for that day which was disappointing and we were well beaten.
"But we did qualify for the last eight, that is the bottom line, and we are looking to repeat that.
"Then, once you get to the back end it is an advantage to be at home, so there is maybe getting through and then getting through in a bit of style that gets you a home quarter-final.
"But our goal since this started has been to try and get into the last eight, and then see where that takes you."